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City Co-operative Bank ‘fraud’: Bombay HC rejects Sena leader Adsul’s plea challenging ED case

The Bombay High Court on Thursday rejected a plea by Shiv Sena leader and former MP Anandrao Adsul challenging the case registered against him by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection with an alleged Rs 980-crore fraud at City Co-operative Bank.

The court granted liberty to Adsul to move an anticipatory bail plea seeking relief from coercive action including arrest. The HC said that the court which will hear pre-arrest bail plea should deal it without prejudice to the present ruling.

A division bench of Justice Nitin M Jamdar and Justice Sarang V Kotwal was hearing Adsul’s plea filed on September 29. The plea, argued by advocate Abhinav Chandrachud, sought quashing of the proceedings against him in the Enforcement Case Information Report and challenged the summons issued against Adsul.

Chandrachud claimed that “arbitrary” action was being taken against Adsul and the same “smacks of political vendetta” and “selective approach” by the ED, as he had filed a plea against a “leader from Opposition party”, Independent MP from Amravati Navneet Kaur-Rana, whose caste certificate was cancelled and confiscated by the HC in June. Adsul, in his plea, said the ED stepped in only at the instance of Navneet Kaur-Rana, her husband Ravi Rana and BJP leader Kirit Somaiya.

The HC in its order observed, “It cannot be said that there is no material against the petitioner (Adsul)… Merely by hinting that the husband of Navneet Kaur-Rana belongs to the ruling dispensation, the requirement of establishing malafide as a legal ground is not satisfied. The Court cannot go by general perception and assumptions.” The bench went on to note that Adsul prayed for interim protection from arrest “only because he is currently in hospital, that the ED has not taken him in custody and petitioner cannot stay further in hospital”.

The court said that the petitioner failed to make out a case for interference by HC. It held, “As regards the protection from arrest is concerned, the Petitioner has a remedy under the CrPC. In these circumstances, the writ petition is rejected.” The bench clarified that the competent court approached by the petitioner will decide the pre-arrest bail plea “on its own merits and in accordance with the law”. The ED probe in the case is based on a complaint filed by Adsul, the former chairman of the bank, with the Economic Offences Wing of Mumbai Police. Alleging misappropriation of funds by bank officials, Adsul has claimed that loans were doled out to entities and individuals with very low or no collateral.

The ED is now also probing the role of Adsul and his son Abhijeet, a director in the board of the bank, as it has allegedly been found that the Sena leader was a beneficiary of some of the loans given by the bank. Alleging that the ED proceedings are against his personal liberty, Adsul said in his plea that he is being treated as an accused in the proceedings initiated by ED and sought quashing of the ECIR. He also sought direction to the central agency to share the copy of ECIR with him and pending hearing be granted interim protection from coercive action.

The ED, represented by Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, said the summons issued had no connection with the “political rivalry” and elections and was based on the money laundering case. Denying allegations of violation of procedure under PMLA, he said that a person may not be an accused in the original crime and can be a complainant but the ED has to trace where the proceeds of crime have gone.

Chandrachud argued that the ECIR must be given to his client as there is no express provision in law that it is a ‘secret document’ and therefore ED should share a copy of it with Adsul. However, ASG Singh said that it was not incumbent on ED to share the ECIR copy and sought dismissal of the plea.

After court inquired as to how it can pass a final order of quashing ECIR if it is an ‘internal’ document of the agency, Chandrachud said that HC can quash malafide investigation or action of the central agency. After hearing submissions, Justice Jamdar said the bench has rejected Adsul’s plea and granted him liberty to approach with pre-arrest bail plea seeking protection from arrest.

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